Joan Osborne Sings the Songs of Bob Dylan, Part II, in NYC - New York City Article
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Joan Osborne is that rare contemporary artist who’s equally skilled as a singer-songwriter and an interpreter of other people’s music. Instead of letting the two ends cancel each other out, it’s her inside knowledge of the songwriting process that empowers her skills as a performer, giving her a deeper perspective on how a song works and how best to bring out its inner meaning. For her second annual run of Dylan songs at Cafe Carlyle in New York City, Ms. Osborne draws from across the Noble-prize-winner’s 50-plus year career. Yet what distinguishes her performances isn’t the discrepancy between the classic and the relatively recent but between the more abstract of Mr. Dylan’s songs and the more literal. Yet even when a song is essentially a sequence of chanted conundrums, like “Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn),” Ms. Osborne conveys a genuine sense of narrative with it. She’s at her best at the more comparatively straightforward love songs - or as close as Mr. Dylan comes to the form – like “Just Like a Woman” and “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” On “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” (the rather quixotic title of a song most of us know as “Everybody Must Get Stoned”) and “Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat” she brings out a side of the rather caustic Mr. Dylan I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. I’d always thought that, like Thelonious Monk, Dylan has always had what we might call a sledge-hammer sense of humor, but Ms. Osborne (and her two ace accompanists, keyboardist Keith Cotton and guitarist Jack Petruzzelli) shows that he can be capricious and even down-right whimsical.
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)